The United Nations’ former special envoy to Iraq has called on the international community to recognise the residents of Camp Liberty as refugees and find a solution to set them free.
Dutch career politician Ad Melkert, also formerly head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said “there were many reasons for great concern” over the running of the camp, a former US military base in Baghdad now being used to hold 2,500 Iranian dissidents against their will.
Speaking during the latest of a series of online question-and-answer sessions hosted by the website IranFreedom.org, Mr Melkert said the camp’s residents must now be given identification documents to pave the way for them to seek asylum outside Iraq.
He said: “Many people have suffered and this has led to deaths. We have to avoid repetition of such terrible events.”
Mr Melkert added the formation of an impartial camp committee, with representatives appointed by residents and the Iraqi government, would ensure a more balanced approach to the refugees’ plight and make sure they did not continue to suffer from “intimidation” and “violence”.
He also called for electricity and sewage facilities to be built as soon as possible, in order to end “unbearable” living conditions, and urged the Iraqi government to lift a siege-like ban on medical equipment entering the camp, which is believed to have led to the deaths of some 25 residents.
In May, Iraqi agents stopped vehicles carrying vital supplies, including power generators and water filtration systems, from entering the camp.
Mr Melkert warned Iran was still pulling strings to ensure the camp’s residents remained in chains, stating there was “no doubt” Tehran had played a role and “very probably” was still playing a role in “keeping pressure on the government of Iraq not to let the Camp Liberty residents go”.
He said: “I know that the atrocities that took place at the time the residents were still in Camp Ashraf, where tens of people got killed, could not have been done without some level of support from the Iranian side.
“It is hard to see why they are continuing that confrontation. Legal courts in the US and Europe have now cleared the legal status of the residents.
“All the conditions are there to disentangle the position of the residents from any political consideration in the past or present that would keep them as hostages.
“Trying to improve the situation today and working towards a solution tomorrow would be, in my view, the best way forward.”
Mr Melkert concluded by saying he hoped a special envoy appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would further raise the profile of the residents’ plight among the international community and halt their suffering.